Investigators: Polish Crew Ignored Warnings

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Newly released transcripts from the cockpit recorder of the Polish government aircraft that crashed in Russia in April show the crew ignored system warnings and offer no direct proof that the crew's actions were influenced by political officials onboard (but may suggest that). According to reports, the 41-page transcript released Tuesday shows the crew was aware of the weather at Smolensk's Severny airport, which was worse than minimums, but proceeded with the approach even as system warnings began to sound in the cockpit. The crash killed all aboard, including the Polish president. Investigators now say the crew apparently ignored a total of 16 aircraft system warnings before the Tu-154 began impacting trees. But prior to that, the transcript also shows the captain said, "We don't know if we will be able to land," followed by a foreign ministry official stating, "Well, we have a problem."

The commander of the Polish air force was on the flight deck at the time of the crash, but according to investigators his only comments were technical in nature. The nature of any influence the crew may have felt from their political passengers is not at all clear, because no direct order or suggestion dictating their actions is stated. On the tape, all that appears is the ministry official stating simply that, "At the moment there is no decision from the president on what to do." As the pilots made their final approach, the aircraft's systems issued a "terrain ahead" warning, followed by 15 more warnings while the crew counted down with the altimeter. Then the recorder captured the sound of impact with a tree, followed by a curse from the copilot, before the recording ends.